OOA Members may have heard about Bill 87 that is currently being reviewed by a Standing Committee of the Ontario Legislature. When it becomes law (probably around the beginning of 2018) it will have a profound impact on members of all regulated health care professions, including opticianry, and on the College of Opticians.
Bill 87 is what is called an “omnibus Bill”. It contains five schedules, four of which have no relevance to the opticianry profession. Schedule 4, however, makes pervasive amendments to the Regulated Health Professions Act that are designed primarily (but not exclusively) to implement the Task Force Report on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Patients. A summary of Schedule 4 follows.
Many Colleges are making deputations and/or written submissions to the Standing Committee. The OOA decided to do neither, for the following reasons:
Schedule 4 is largely enabling. It includes 11 new regulation-making authorities for the government. The substance of the legislation and its impact on health care professionals will, therefore, primarily be through the regulations and the OOA intends to participate fully in the consultations relating to the regulation-making process. That process is expected to begin as soon as the Bill is reported out of Standing Committee, which is likely to occur within a few weeks.
The OOA made the strategic decision that it would be difficult to make any critique of our recommendations pertaining to Schedule 4 without being perceived as questioning the “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse by healthcare practitioners that underlies the Bill. The debate on Bill 87 that occurred at Second Reading in the Legislature demonstrated this risk very clearly.
The Bill is expected to be passed by the Legislature without significant amendment. Debate at Second Reading raised a few, but not many, areas of concern or opposition. Many of the Colleges are assuming that the Bill will pass largely as is and have already put out the Standards of Practice, etc. necessary to implement the Bill as written.
SUMMARY OF PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE RHPA & PROCEDURAL CODE
- The Minister of Health and Long-Term Care may require the Council of any health professions College to include in its reports to the Minister personal information and personal health information about any member of the College to the extent necessary in order to allow the Minister to determine if the College is fulfilling its duties and carrying out its objects or if the Minister should exercise certain of the Minister’s powers. Personal information and personal health information shall not be included if other information will suit the purpose, and no more than is necessary shall be included.
- The purposes for which the Minister may require a College to collect information from members under section 36.1 of the Act are expanded to include health human resources research.
- The Minister is given the power to make regulations respecting the composition of College committees and panels.
- The matters that a College is required to note in its register are expanded to include matters such as previous offenses and complaints.
- For the purposes of the sexual abuse provisions of the Code, the definition of “patient”, without restricting the ordinary meaning of the term, is expanded to include an individual who was a member’s patient within the last year or within such longer period of time as may be prescribed, and an individual who is determined to be a patient in accordance with the criteria set out in regulations.
- The Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee and its panels may make an order for the interim suspension of a member’s certificate of registration at any time following the receipt of a complaint or report, without any finding of guilt, instead of only when a matter is referred for discipline or incapacity proceedings.
- The imposition of gender-based terms, conditions or limitations on a member’s certificate of registration is no longer allowed.
- The grounds for mandatory revocation of the certificate of registration of a member who has sexually abused a patient are expanded, and suspension is made mandatory in sexual abuse cases that do not involve conduct requiring mandatory revocation.
- Members are required to report to the Registrar if they belong to professional bodies outside Ontario, and if there has been a finding of professional misconduct or incompetence against them by such a body.
- Members are required to report to the Registrar if they are charged with an offence, and are required to provide information about bail conditions.
- The mandatory program for Colleges to provide funding for therapy and counselling for patients who were sexually abused by members is expanded to apply to persons who are alleged to have been sexually abused while a patient, and to provide funding for other purposes provided for in regulations.
- The penalties for failing to report sexual abuse of patients are increased.